Cobourg kicks off Pride Month

Pride organizers on the rainbow Crosswalk

By Cecilia Nasmith

Until there is such a thing as Northumberland Pride, Ashley Bouman declared, local supporters can celebrate Cobourg Pride.

It was a sentiment shared by a sizeable crowd Monday morning, as the Pride flag was raised in two locations (with a march in between) and the Rainbow Crosswalk debuted at the northern end of Second Street.

“I hope that everyone who walks across that crosswalk really takes a moment to think about what it represents, and to reflect, and to recognize how important that it is there and how essential it is,” said Matthew Stergios, who attended to represent Northumberland-Peterborough South MP Kim Rudd.

The installation of the crosswalk – the first rainbow crosswalk in the county - was led by the town's Communications Department, as an opportunity in a vibrant way. In a press release, manager of roads and sewers Ted Sokay extended thanks to Prime Pavement Markings for a job well done on short notice.

Pride lapel pins and ribbons were almost as abundant as the small Pride flags large and small that fluttered from many hands – and one transgender-support flag and one variant on the Canadian flag with Pride colours.

Organizer Ashley Bouman with a poster that shows variations on the Pride flag

The colours are displayed with red on top, so it appears to be a natural rainbow, Bouman said, and each has a meaning – red for life, orange for healing, yellow for sunlight, green for nature, blue for serenity and violet for spirit.

Mayor John Henderson quoted DNA pioneer Dr. James Watson, who said, “We all have our own DNA – our goal should be to understand our differences,”

“I think he got it right,” the mayor declared.

“Cobourg is a town that supports everyone, and we continue to be so proud of that,” Councillor Adam Bureau added.

Bureau pointed out that this is the fourth year Cobourg has had a Pride celebration, starting with the raising of the Pride flag at the Cobourg Police Station on June 3, 2016.

He gave a little history of the Pride movement, whose genesis was a police raid on New York's Stonewall Inn June 26, 1969, that started the Stonewall Riots. It was a time when being gay was illegal in many areas.

Fast forward to 2019, he said, and Cobourg is seeing its staff and councillors work together with the Cobourg Police Service, the local PFLAG organization and the Cobourg Queer Collective to ensure everyone has a safe and supportive environment to achieve his or her full potential.

Cobourg Police Chief Kai Liu in the rainbow-stitched vest officers will wear throughout June

Cobourg Police Chief Kai Liu was debuting the rainbow-coloured Cobourg Police Service stitching that officers will be wearing on their vests in June. He invited members of the public to feel free to stop an officer to ask them why they are wearing this emblem.

He also thought back to that first flag raising in 2016. After photos of the event appeared in the news media, he got a number of letters, but one remains with him – a letter from a 11-year-old who had two mothers and said that his action validated her family.

Bouman thanked the town for its enthusiastic response to her appearance before council last month requesting the recognition of Pride Month.

It's not just a celebration of being gay, she said – it's a recognition of the right to exist without persecution.

Kim McArthur-Jackson recalled the isolated boos they have heard in recent years during civic occasions such as Canada Day parades.

“We still have a lot of discrimination, especially in the health-care system, especially in employment,” MacArthur-Jackson stated.

“Even now, when you are considering how far we have come, we still do have a long way to go. But we will get there. By doing these sorts of events, showing how strong we are when we come together, that is how we will get there.”

councillors crossing the rainbow Crosswalk - from the front, Mayor John Henderson, Deputy Mayor Suzanne Seguin, and councillors Brian Darling, Nicole Beatty, Aaron Burchat and Adam Bureau

The presentation in front of Victoria Hall was followed by a march down the block to the police station for a flag raising there, and then a celebratory barbecue.

Meanwhile, according to the press release, the rainbow crosswalk will remain in place as a symbol of the community's acceptance and belonging for the rest of the summer.